Monday, April 24, 2017

ROUSHANNA; THE FORAGING PIXIE


Roushanna Gray, a foraging inspiration                                                                                                                                  UHG
Near the sharp pointy bit at the bottom of Africa are some pretty amazing people doing some pretty amazing things when it comes to foraging and sustainable food.
                                                                                                                                               
Loubie Rusch knows stuff… lots of stuff. (https://www.facebook.com/making.kos) Amongst other projects, she is doing a great job educating folk about indigenous plants and is encouraging people to grow indigenous edible gardens that don’t need much attention. They are water-wise, pest resistant and there is no need for added soil nutrients.

Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to consider that in our Western culture we have developed a pretty generic palate.  For example, when we think of herbs, we usually think of things like rosemary, chives, sage, etc.  Which are jolly nice and all, but growing right here are our very own delicious indigenous versions of these herbs.  Sadly our traditions and preconditioned tastes are not familiar with them, so we just carry on chomping their good old European counterparts, just like we have done for centuries. Perhaps if our African versions of these herbs came from Europe, the Western World would be eating our wild rosemary (Eriocephalus Africanus), chives (Tulbughia) and sage (Salvia) instead?

Our local culinary rock-star, Kobus Van der Merwe is turning this mindset on its head. He is creating world-class food using ‘unfamiliar’ local flavors. I don’t really know him, but on the odd occasion when I have eaten his amazing creations it has left me in awe and wanting more. I hear that his recently opened restaurant ‘Wolfgat’ in Paternoster is exceptional. (www.wolfgat.co.za)

Kelp, sea salt and sesame chocolate eyes                                                        UHG
Living on the very tip of that pointy bit of the continent is Roushanna and the Gray family. She is leading the way when it comes to coastal foraging and is no slouch when it comes to indigenous edibles. It stands to reason, as she is involved in the family business, The Good Hope Nursery (www.goodhopegardensnursery.co.za), which specializes in indigenous plants.
Kind, beautiful and fun loving, Roushanna has always been happy to share; no matter if is it information, her homegrown family veggies, foraged bounty, or a bottle of wine. For her to put a day aside for me to do this blog was both a privilege and a delight… and of course, deliciously educational too.

I knew we were in for a fun time when Roushanna asked me to bring my wetsuit and surfboard so that we could paddle out to collect the ‘best’ seaweed.  Actually we both knew that on such a flat day we could have wobbled around knee deep on the submerged boulders to get the seaweeds we needed.  But where is the fun in that???

This Suhria vitiate (Agar agar) will go onto the drying rack for a jelly, sometime in the future                                   UHG
First morsel up was Sea Urchin.  This Italian favorite is also a Japanese delicacy, which they call Uni.  I have eaten it off the rocks many times, but Roushanna’s preparation was primal yet delicate. It was by far the best way I have eaten Urchin.

Roushanna gently prepares a seaside snack of sea urchin                                                                                                   UHG
A gentle rinse, so only the deliciousness remains                                                                                                                 UHG
Roushanna presents to you, Uni                                                                                                                                             UHG
Roushanna reminded me about the Acid Weed. To some the name suggests it could be a bit of psychedelic fun to ingest a little.  But consume it at your peril, for it is the only toxic seaweed, with a dangerously high concentration of sulphuric acid. As a rule, never eat any seaweed that is not attached to a rock, shell or other seaweeds, because it might just be the evil Acid Weed.

Roushanna reminds us what not to eat; the evil Acid Weed                                                                                               UHG
Evidence of where sulphuric acid has eaten the bio-matter off the rock     UHG
After collecting a variety of edibles we headed for Roushanna’s rustic and charming home. On the way to the front garden we nipped through the kitchen sampling a couple of rounds of Roushanna’s delectable kelp, sea salt and sesame seed chocolate. We grabbed a few handfuls of ingredients, a bottle of wine and headed outside. Waiting for us was a higgledy-piggledy and inviting space, where a fire was already on the go. I was in for a treat.  Unfussy cooking on a wood fire is by far my favorite. It got better still… we raided the veggie garden while waiting for the fire to be just the right heat for Roushanna’s paella-style seaweed dish along with mussels steamed in a kelp bulb.

What a pleasant space to pass time                                                                     UHG
A quick detour into the veggie garden. These things make me happy                                                                            UHG

Sea vegetables for Roushanna's 'paella'                                                                                                                                      UHG
Once Roushanna had sautéed the usual suspects (garlic, onion, chili etc), in went the rice for a coating of olive oil, followed by a variety of chopped seaweeds and handfuls of mussels.  After generously covering the ingredients with water she popped on the pièce de résistance, an edible lid of Slippery Orbit, my new favorite seaweed. The dish was a triumph. The mussels steamed in white wine in the kelp bulb were also bloody delicious. And let me not forget the simple grilled garden leeks. YUM, YUM and YUM.

Slippery Orbit…  my new favourite seaweed                                                                                                                           UHG
'Paelle',  Roushanna style in the making                                                                                                                                   UHG
A delicious lid of Slippery Orbit. 'More please?'                                                                                                                 UHG
Thank you so much Roushanna for a brilliant foraging day, for teaching me stuff and for the take away butternuts and pink pop corn from your garden.

Roushanna leads coastal foraging outings in summer and indigenous (Fynbos) ones in winter. Please see her website for bookings.

Follow Roushanna on instagram @goodhopegardens

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